Blog: Westwood on his personal progress one year on
31st Aug 2013
Westwood was originally set to join Swansea but boss Paul Lambert moved late in the window to acquire the services of the midfield playmaker, who had made his name in the central ground for Crewe.
Lambert was gushing in his praise of Westwood on transfer deadline day after the 23-year-old had put pen to paper on a four-year deal.
The delighted boss hailed Westwood's passing simplicity and economy and called him "a terrific prospect for this football club - a real, real talent."
Westwood himself was confident in his ability but unsure he had the gusto and guile to make an immediate impact in the Barclays Premier League.
It's fair to say he proved his worth in abundance, producing some majestic displays as Villa charged back in the second half of the season to gain a reputation as a youthful team of emerging quality.
His own belief rocketed in those monumental months and now he's bubbling with belief as he looks back on his progress over the past 12 months.
"This time last year I was still at Crewe. So to move to the Premier League took a while to sink in. I've got used to it now, thankfully.
"Now my total focus is improving and progressing as a player.
"I know I have come on loads in this past year. I can feel it.
"In terms of improvements, I am better defending in the team shape for example. That has improved massively.
"It had to against the top players - they just find little pockets. I just used to think about my own game - keeping the ball, keeping the possession - but now it's more about the team.
"I believe in myself more too. When I first signed, I wasn't sure I was quite ready for the step-up. I was apprehensive.
"But having played for a year now, I finally believe I belong here.
"I want to add more to my game now - more assists and the odd goal here and there too. You're always looking to improve."
Westwood is adamant that playing with better players - without belittling his pals at Gresty Road - has been one of the major factors behind his higher footballing education.
But he's also quick to point to the immense influence of the manager in giving him the confidence and freedom to perform.
The boss is a beacon of encouragement and affirmation at the training ground, according to Westwood - getting the best out of his players by filling them with the confidence needed to perform at their optimum.
"The gaffer has been brilliant with me. He talks to me all the time. Bodymoor is a great place to be.
"I love training. It's a pleasure to come in and work. The set-up helps too. You're coming into a top-quality work environment, the lads are brilliant and the staff are all up for it.
"We have new fitness coaches too and they have been superb.
"Just having people here believing in you and telling you that you're good enough, you couldn't ask for a better place to be. It's brilliant to hear that encouragement from them.
"The training is sharp and you are always going to improve with the players here. They bring you on.
"It's everything about the club - the staff, the players, the place. It's a pleasure to be here.
"The staff here keep banging into you that you're good enough. That's the gaffer and his staff. They always keep your spirits high, even after a bad game or a defeat. They are still patting you on the back and encouraging you.
"But, don't get me wrong, they will still bring you back down to earth when they need to.
"There's a good balance there. The man-management skills are superb.
"The gaffer is always involved. He is in there encouraging us, talking to us, getting the best out of us.
"He joins in during training sometimes too. He gives me a bit of stick at times. He's always asking me if I want to swap shirts after sessions. I have to take that! He's not bad to be fair. He's still got a bit.
"But, joking aside, he's passionate - and that rubs off on his players. He's a big part of the progress I have made - and the team has made."
Westwood is undoubtedly a big part of the progress made by the young and emerging team, too.
And if he continues to improve on the scale seen already, he will fulfil Lambert's prediction of him as a star of the present and future.
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